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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 52 January 2014

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The Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF)

The Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) is a discretionary scheme which aims to help people who are experiencing a crisis or who need support to live independently in the community.

The fund is administered by local authorities and was set up in response to changes to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund. This means that some of the responsibilities that used to fall with the DWP are now the responsibility of local authorities in Scotland. As the SWF provides grants to people in need it does not have to be paid back.

There is national guidance set up for the whole of Scotland, but there are some differences in the way the fund operates locally. For example some local authorities may offer a grant for a specific item, whereas other may offer assistance in kind (such as vouchers for food or a store card with money placed on it).

What does the fund provide?
The Scottish Welfare Fund is made up of two separate grants – a crisis grant and community care grant.

A community care grant aims to help with the costs that are involved to remain as independent as possible at home and prevent the need to for institutional care.
A crisis grant is intended to act as a safety net in a disaster or emergency, when there is an immediate threat to health and safety.

How does the local authority decide who gets help?
If you are on a low income and have no other way to pay for what you need, you may be eligible for help through the fund. The main points that the local authority decision makers will consider are the same for both grants. The four stage process is as follows:

1. Eligibility for the grant - This involves a number of checks including your identity, how much savings you have and whether you have applied to the fund before.
2. Qualifying conditions - They will look at whether your personal circumstances coordinate with the qualifying conditions for the grant.
3. Priority - Your application will be given high, medium or low priority. This will depend on the nature of the problem that you have and the severity of need.
4. Budget - Depending on the demand for the fund, the decision maker has to decide whether the budget can be used for high, medium or low priority applications.

There are specific rules put in place for the types of items that the fund can help with. For example it cannot be used to pay off debts.

How do you apply?
A standard application form is used across Scotland; however each local authority has their own way of administrating this. This could be face to face, over the phone, on-line or by downloading and posting a form. To find out how you can apply to your particular local authority, see the Scottish Government guidance on this.

If you need help to fill out the form and make a claim you can ask an independent advice service, such as your local Citizens Advice Bureau. You could also ask someone else to apply on your behalf if they have your permission to do so.
Call Silver Line Scotland (0800 4 70 80 90) for advice concerning your individual situation. Our advice team can discuss with you possible ways to maximise your income by carrying out a benefits check and can look into different options for you. They can also advise about the Scottish Welfare Fund in depth and can give you information about how to contact your specific local authority.

Energy Efficiency

When we talk about improving energy efficiency we mean taking steps to use less energy while still meeting our needs. There are steps that we can all take to reduce the amount of energy we use. By only using what we need‚ we can save money too.
Reducing your energy use results in smaller bills‚ leaving you with a greater proportion of your income to spend elsewhere. Think about how much you spend on energy at the moment. Do you have to go without other comforts to make your finances balance?
Money-saving measures
The money you can save by taking common energy efficiency measures is considerable. Here are some examples:
• Installing cavity wall insulation can save you up to £320 per year.
• Increasing loft insulation to 250mm can save up to £120 per year.
• An ‘A’ rated fridge/freezer can cost up to £37 less per year to run than a less efficient model.
• Draught proofing can save up to £20 per year insulating your hot-water tank can save up to £20 per year.
• A single low-energy light bulb can cost up to £4.50 less a year to use than a traditional bulb.
Together‚ these savings are the equivalent of an extra £10 in your pocket every week.

The savings listed above are based on information issued by the Home Energy Scotland. The amount you save may vary depending upon the size and age of your home and how you use energy.

Download Age Scotland's guide to energy efficiency programmes

Energy suppliers

Energy costs have risen sharply in recent years but you may be able to save some money by changing your energy supplier. You still use the same gas pipes and electric cables. The change will be which company sells you fuel and sends you bills.

Prices are not the only reason to switch. Check which energy suppliers offer special discounts‚ such as dual-fuel discounts‚ or other services‚ such as cheaper telephone charges.

You can compare fuel tariffs over the phone or by using online price comparison websites. Your current energy supplier should be able to provide you with an annual summary of your fuel use, making it easy to compare tariffs and get the best deal.

Home Energy Scotland

Alongside looking at ways of maximising your income, increasing the energy efficiency of your home is an important means of reducing fuel bills and the threat of falling in to fuel poverty.
Home Energy Scotland can provide information on:
• Free, impartial advice about the best energy-saving options for your home.
• Details of installers in your area.
• Grants or discounts to help with the cost.
Home Energy Scotland also manages the Energy Assistance Package on behalf of the Scottish Government. This provides a range of measures to support those likely to have difficulty paying their fuel bills or keeping their home sufficiently warm.
Almost everyone can get some form of help, so to find out what the package can offer you, telephone Home Energy Scotland on 0800 512 012 or visit www.energyassistancepackage.com.

The package has four stages:
1. Free expert energy advice to anyone who contacts the Energy Savings Scotland advice centre network on 0800 512 012.
2. Provides benefits and tax credit checks and information on low cost energy tariffs to those at risk of fuel poverty.
3. Provides a package of standard insulation measures (cavity wall and loft insulation) to older households and those on one of a range of benefits.
4. Offers a package of enhanced energy efficiency measures to those who are most vulnerable to fuel poverty.


Can I take this opportunity to remind members that there could be some differences between information given by AGE UK, and Age Scotland, as legislation could be different? However, AGE Scotland is a group member of AGE UK, and information will, in the main overlap.

First instance for us; I would suggest that first point of contact would be Age Scotland at;
Silver Line Scotland 0800 4 70 80 90
For information, advice and friendship, all day, every day.

General Enquiries
Call 0845 833 0200 if you want to get involved with our work.

Write to
Causewayside House
160 Causewayside

I am sure that they will be able to help with any enquiries you may have, or point you in the right direction.

For those Silver surfers out there you’ll find both sites at:

www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland or www.ageuk.org.uk
(Apologies to Age Scotland for any mis-quotes in this information) 
Mae Stewart


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